The United States Library of Congress started with Thomas Jefferson’s personal library – 6,487 books. Now it’s an enormous collection of information on almost any topic a person wants to study. The library’s history page notes that “… it has become the largest repository of recorded knowledge in the world and a symbol of the vital connection between knowledge and democracy.”
The resourceful staff at the Library have a finger on the cultural pulse of the country, so not only do the collections include books, papers, music, film, historical documents, and images, but now the library is digitizing its collection. As of February 2009 there were 15.3 million digitized items and anyone can access and download this information to a computer. According to the Library of Congress blog (subscribers welcomed), if all of those digitized items could be saved to CD-ROM disks, the pile would be a mile high, and that was more than a year ago.
The Library of Congress website is just the right place to get started with research for a class project or homework assignment. Start by going the section for kids and families, with features that are mostly, but not exclusively, useful to elementary and middle school students. Some of the searchable features in this section include: Continue reading →
Common Sense Media, a not-for-profit advocacy organization designed for families, offers trustworthy information, media evaluations, and all sort of online tools to help parents, kids, and educators become more sophisticated consumers. Think of Common Sense Media as an information portal rather than a mere website. Parents, no matter the age of children in the family, can consult the organization’s web site for age appropriate information about movies, current media events, digital citizenship advice, and much more. A separate part of the website provides information for educators and schools. Common Sense Media is non-partisan, and you can learn more at the Common Sense Media FAQ.
As summer 2010 moves swiftly along, we begin thinking, albeit incrementally, about back-to-school preparations.
In addition to traditional preparations — school supplies, lunch boxes, schedules, new shoes and clothes — we often use this time of year to update our digital lives, purchasing new computers, updating Internet access in our homes, and deciding whether or not to purchase cell phones other gadgets (MP3 players, iTouch, iPad) for our children.
Parents and teachers who have been through many back-to-school cycles know that some year when school begins, we unexpectedly become acquainted with new types of digital activities, discovering things that our children have known about all summer long. A few years ago Facebook arrived on the scene in just this way. While the school year does not always begin with digital surprises, experience tells us that, more often than not, a new digital activity or concern arrives on our radar screen — that’s the adult radar — at the beginning of the school year.
So to level the playing field between now and early September, I will post regular links to back-to-school parent “reading assignments.”
Digital media manipulators use and modify information in any way necessary to support their views. The truth, context, intention, and even a person’s reputation are irrelevant, as Mrs. Shirley Sherrod discovered this week. What do children learn during these media spectacles?
While it’s tempting to focus on the unprincipled young-adult blogger who posted the edited, out-of-context video, the more compelling issue is how it’s increasingly acceptable to use digital media to embarrass and publicly humiliate others. Although the victim can be in the national news, more often it’s a child on the other side of a classroom. Thus the task of initiating conversations to help children understand ethical digital behavior takes on greater urgency.
Today with everyone connected all of the time, families need to think about scheduling disconnect time at home. Recently I read that, before cabinet meetings at the White House, the president requires attendees to leave phones and Blackberries in a basket by the door. Without interruptions from communication devices, people can concentrate on the conversation and on the important issues. Most importantly, cabinet members are able to listen to each other without distractions.
Family meals are the perfect time to disconnect phones and Blackberries. Increasingly, pediatricians and other family researchers believe that regular, all-family mealtimes provide children with a range of advantages. To improve communication and interaction, each person can turn off the ringer and deposit his or her phone in a location away from the table, preferably in another room. Dinner table conversation can proceed uninterrupted so family members will listen more carefully to one another. Make the dining room a gadget-free zone during meal times.
Do you constantly ask questions about the influence of media on your children? The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) website at Boston Children’s Hospital is a reservoir of information for parents, teachers, pediatricians, and other professionals. Led by pediatrician Michael Rich, MD, MPH, a professor at Harvard Medical School, the mission of the organization is to “…empower both children and those who care for them to create and consume media in ways that optimize children’s health and development.”
In addition to the resources at the CMCH Dr. Rich writes a column, Ask the Mediatrician, answering questions about media and children. Anyone can submit a question, and an archive of past questions and answers is posted at the site. A button link to this feature is in the middle of the right-hand column.
One of My Favorite Quotes from Dr. Michael Rich
In America we make a distinction between education and entertainment. We learn important values and serious information in school, at church, and in the doctor’s office. But television, movies and other media are entertainment, relaxing “down time for our minds.” Unfortunately, the education/entertainment dichotomy is both artificial and false…Children spend more time using media than they spend at school, with parents, or in any other activity except for sleep. Media are teaching our children, and they are incorporating what they learn into their lives. We must pay more attention to the lessons they are learning.
“Every Moment is a Teachable Moment,” Pediatrics, July 1, 2001 (p.180)